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One of the big dogs on the porch in the custom car hobby is the early 50s Mercury.


These cars have been the foundation for some of the coolest customs ever built and have enjoyed legendary status for decades.


The early 50s Mercs had the right curves and the right lines to set the table for a custom build.


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One of the most famous custom versions is the 1951 Mercury used in ‘American Graffiti’. This car would have been the star if not for John Milner’s famous Ford hot rod and the muscled-out ’55 Chevy.


The fictitious gang in ‘American Graffiti’ were known as the Pharaohs and they were cooler because of their low-slung custom ’51 Merc-plus they had plenty of room for unwilling passengers like Richard Dreyfuss.


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The early 50s Mercs lend themselves to a chop and slam better than just about any other car ever built and there are many examples of how well this concept works on them.


We found a 1951 Merc at a lakeside show that fit the custom philosophy to a tee. Owner Richard Deegan was younger than most lead sled enthusiasts, but he was a car guy even before he was old enough to attend kindergarten.


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Richard’s father was his biggest influence and Richard was immersed in the car hobby at a very young age. In fact his dad used to trace hot rods on Richard’s paper lunch bag when he was a kid. His father also owns a 1949 Mercury, so Richard’s interest in custom Mercs is a family tradition.


Richard is a trucker and explained that he has been “driving around in semis and hot rods” since he was two years old.


Richard calls his ’51 Merc “Second Chance” and explained the name: he owned a 1950 Merc that he had to sell in a divorce and considers his ’51 a second chance to own the car of his dreams.


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Richard’s ’51 sat for 7 years in a carport before he bought it and put it back on the road where it belonged in Richard’s game plan. The car has a crate 350 bolted up to a turbo transmission and beefier 10 bolt rear end.


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Richard said his Mercdrives down the road like a dream” and added he is “not afraid to drive it”. In other words, Richard’s stylish custom lead sled will never ride on a trailer down the road.


Richard is a member of the Blacktop Bombers, an old school car club who like to celebrate the long history of the hot rod culture with their retro rides. His ’51 Merc fits right into their retro philosophy which includes driving them as much as possible on the road.


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We have a rule at MSCC: when we see an old school cool ride like Richard’s custom 1951 Merc, we get the story and lots of photos.


Timeless classics like an early 50s lead sled are well worth the effort.


Jim Sutherland

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